The embarrassing truth about Richard Dawkins

So, when we hear the shrill voice of Dr Richard Dawkins bleating about Professor Craig’s ‘relentless drive for self-promotion’, and rejecting the debasement of his eminent CV by debating with the distinguished Christian apologist, we should remember this: Richard Dawkins never contributed much to science; his Oxford chair was bought for him by a rich admirer; and the scientific ideas upon which he built his reputation are increasingly discredited. Those beguiled by his diatribes are listening neither to the voice of reason nor science.

Click here to read the full article.

15 replies
  1. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    What idea of Dawkins is ‘increasing discredited’?? Surely the author doesn’t mean evolution?? Are there still young-earth creationists in New Zealand??? One of Dawkins’ major contributions is his continued voice of reason in the face of religious hysteria. I am particularly reminded of his argument on the BBC debate show, where he pressed an Imam from Birmingham on the formal, technical punishment for apostasy in Islam – yes, death, the Imam conceded. Case closed, surely? Dawkins has the status to cast a beautiful light on the ugly realities of all the Abrahamic religions, and he will be remembered as a stalwart.

  2. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    I did read the whole article. That is my response. I personally find Dawkins pretty uncharismatic. But I’m not surprised, having watched him pretty closely in the public sphere, that he’s reached the point where he is too exasperated to continue the debate with people of irrational faith. If you have read his new book, you will know he has turned his attentions back to the joy of science, which is evidence in itself of his wider point on religion.

    To say Dawkins ‘never contributed much to science,’ which is the point you have chosen to highlight, is to completely miss the point – Dawkins has had a massive role in presenting science in juxtaposition with religion. He has popularised evolutionary biology – that’s something of an important contribution, and not just in the argument against religion.

    But hey, great point you make there…er…yep.

  3. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    It must be wonderful living in La-La Land, Tom. A place where Dawkins really is too busy to debate one of the leading Christian thinkers in the world, a man widely regarded by philosophers of all convictions, atheist and theist alike. Strange that atheists who are actually famous for their ability to think, rather than string together vitriolic rhetoric, don’t regard faith as irrational. But I guess you’d know better.

    So tell me, what exactly do you understand Christian faith to be, and in what sense is it irrational? Is it means-end irrational? Proper function irrational? I’m dying to know.

  4. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    Well they say patience is a virtue but I’ve run out of time to spoon feed Bnonn. Nowhere did I suggest Dawkins was too busy, and any suggestion from the man himself is not to say he is literally ‘too busy,’ but rather, as I indicated – that he’s reached the point where he is too exasperated to continue the debate with people of irrational faith.

    Well I concede… I suppose in many instances, faith is entirely rational. I think for a Muslim boy in Gaza, for example, faith is a rationalisation of his surroundings. I would find it hard to criticize that form of faith, as much as I might disagree with the product. But faith in the free, independent, educated, science-based reality we probably both exist in is, yes, irrational. No fancy names required – if you pick up the bible, read it cover to cover, compare it to other holy texts and proclaim Jesus as the son of God and the Bible the Word of God as a matter of fact, then yes, you are irrational. La historia me absolverá. But that gives me little comfort somehow. I might add that the side arguing for a truth without sound evidence holds the burden of proof – and neither you nor any other Christian I have met has ever offloaded that burden with any particular skill.

    As for ‘Christian faith’ – I’ve never met any two Christians that have the same understanding of ‘Christian faith.’ What does God look like? Fundamental question. Can’t get the same answer. What does hell consist of? No unity in the response.

    I’m always a bit surprised when Christians get their backs up in defense though. If you really are so sure of your faith, and you really are a Christian, and God really is love, then why would you be so snarky and unpleasant to me as I approach eternal damnation, rather than persuade me of my ignorance? Do you think your approach is an effective form of evangelism? Or is this a little victory march for you? Rhetorical questions, of course, I don’t care either way – but you sound like someone who has taken a wrong turn and could do with some reflection. Good luck.

  5. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Tom, when you find some arguments to underwrite your naked assertions about irrationality and burden of proof, feel free to return and let us know. It seems obvious you don’t even understand what rationality is in any rigorous sense.

    As regards faith, I wasn’t referring to the complex of doctrines which comprise Christianity. I was referring to faith itself. What constitutes faith, in your view? If you don’t even know what the Bible itself says about faith, then how can you comment on whether it is irrational or not?

    Why should I be snarky and unpleasant to you? Has the pot met the kettle? Your faux condescension is patently hollow. “Religious hysteria” is the first line which jumps out at me from your first comment on this thread. I’ve been on this merry-go-round before. This site isn’t a soapbox for atheist cheerleaders; it is a place for genuine dialog between people interested in the truth.

  6. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    Although you’re unable to address any of my points, I will address yours. What do I think faith is? At a basic level – on the basis that a Christian cannot prove, in the empirical sense, the existence of God, they use faith to fill the gap. So something like, I have faith in God, although there is no significant evidence that he exists. I have faith that the bible is the word of God, although I have never actually met God, or the people who wrote the bible, or Jesus. That’s not meant to be snide that’s just reality, right? I understand faith has layers of meaning (faith that God has a plan rather than in his existence, for example). I know in Mark 5 a woman is cured of her illness because ‘her faith made her well’ according to Jesus. That’s one biblical demonstration of faith. That’s one thing the bible offers to Christians – the possibility that faith and submission to Jesus can have tangible impacts on their life. I have a feeling you will have an academic disagreement to my definition but I think if you do you will be missing my broader point.

    Which is one thing that has always confused me. In terms of our interaction with God, we clearly anticipate that he can intervene and affect our lives. In this sense, God is either omnipotent and in control of everything, omnipotent but selective in his interference, or he is impotent and has no control over anything. From there, if your Dad is sick and you pray for God to intervene, you’re obviously expecting him to do so. And we’re instantly struck with a massive moral dilemma. If God can cure people of cancer, why doesn’t he cure all people of cancer? What kind of moral God has power of events and permits horrific, wicked things to happen? And if on the other hand he is not omnipotent but impotent, then what is the purpose of prayers for intervention in the first place? I genuinely have not had a coherent answer to that question, ever, from anyone. The only conclusion I ever find is that IF God does exist, never mind the fact that there’s no evidence that he does in the first place, then in my mind God is terribly immoral and I would rather spend eternity on the other side of the fence.

    Which brings me round to the ORIGINAL point I made posting here. You’ve highlighted a passage suggesting that the science on which Dawkins’ has built his reputation is ‘increasingly discredited.’ And I asked you, although you did not respond – are you saying, or agreeing, that evolution, as a theory, has been discredited???? If so, on what possible basis??

  7. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Tom, your definition of faith could not be further off base. But it reveals a lot about your assumptions re proof and evidence. So let me talk about that first, because I think that will be more productive.

    You talk about faith in God being something Christians cannot prove. Well, I’ll get to that in a minute, but accepting this definition of faith for now, let me ask you: do you have any proof that I exist, apart from what I have written? I don’t believe you do. Yet you have “faith” that I exist, and in fact, not only is it rational for you to have this “faith”, but it would be considered irrational if you did not. Similarly, can you prove that an external world exists? Can you prove the law of noncontradiction, or the principles of mathematics? No, you cannot. Yet believing these things is considered entirely rational; disbelieving them is actually insane. These beliefs are called “properly basic”—they are so fundamental to our experience that believing them is entirely rational, regardless of whether they can be proved. (When I say “rational” I mean proper-function rational, or something similar to it. You never did answer my question re in what manner Christian faith is irrational, though.)

    Now let me talk about evidence. You say there is no evidence for God’s existence. But that is patently false. I have more evidence for God’s existence than I have evidence for yours! I not only have the witness of the Bible (which in turn is corroborated by its internal coherence, its fulfilled prophecies, etc), but I also have many other reasons to believe, including, but not limited to, the internal experience of God; the moral argument; the cosmological argument; the transcendental argument; and the argument from reason. But there’s no argument I know of to show that the existence of Tom Joad is more likely than not. I don’t have any internal experience of your existence. All I have is what you have written. So on those grounds alone, I am more rational to believe that God exists than I am to believe that you do.

    I’m sure when you said “evidence” you meant empirical evidence. But that just shows your bias. Why is empirical evidence the only kind you’re willing to admit? And why should I accept such a profoundly absurd definition—a definition that can’t even support its own weight, since there’s no empirical evidence that the only kind of evidence is empirical evidence?!

    Okay, now let me talk about faith. The Bible defines faith as a true and justified belief in God’s favor towards us. It presupposes the existence of God as given, because we are all made with a facility to recognize his existence as obvious; as I said, it is properly basic. (Some of us subvert that facility, to our condemnation.) In other words, the Bible treats faith as knowledge. The Greek word we translate as “faith” is pistis, which was originally the word for forensic evidence in Greek courts. The Bible neither admits nor even entertains the notion that faith is a belief that cannot be proved—on the contrary, it regards faith as a belief which can be proved to the satisfaction of a court. And that is certainly what we find in the New Testament, where people were converted to Christianity left right and center despite persecution, and despite the fact that its claims were so outrageous and so testable (remember, these claims were based on eyewitness accounts), that if they had been false everyone would quickly have known about it, and would certainly not have endured imprisonment, torture and death for them.

    As regards your question about God’s omnipotence, surely you can’t know so little about Christianity that you aren’t familiar with its theodicies? God does not cure cancer for everyone for the same reason that he allows evil in general: to reveal himself to the fullest extent, both in wrath and in mercy. Man’s sin is the cause of problems like cancer, and God provides a way of salvation that transcends these problems. It’s odd that you focus on something relatively minor, like cancer, rather than something major like hell!

    Back to your original point, I am not saying that evolution, as a theory, has been discredited. And the article isn’t either. It is saying that certain ideas within evolution, that Dawkins originally pioneered, have been discredited. I don’t personally believe in speciation, and I think the evolutionary worldview as a whole is sheer mad poppycock (but what else do you have if you deny God, I guess). But that doesn’t mean I think evolution, as a theory, has been “discredited”.

  8. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    Ah – this is a lot more interesting. I appreciate the comprehensive response. I think you would be surprised at how many Christians exist that do not have even a basic understanding of the things you’ve outlined here (which incidentally is, to me, further proof against the Christian God, ie – the complete disaggregation of His followers). I’ll give a proper response tonight.

    On a side note – I’d like to be in court when a judge rules on the existence of God.

  9. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    Tom, there’s no doubt that many people who call themselves Christians don’t understand these things. But simply calling oneself something doesn’t make it so. Still, even if many genuine Christians don’t understand the basics of their faith, why is that evidence against God? Why should God not decree such disaggregation? On the face of it, the lack of unity among Christians would seem to emphasize two things to me: the extent of sin, and the extent of God’s grace that he saves us despite our failure to be as unified as we ought. Why could this not be what God intended by the disunity in the first place?

  10. justicenaczycz
    justicenaczycz says:

    More interesting conversation on this subject than most. So cheers folks! Many significant points raised and I have not the time at the moment to address but one, so sorry for that incompleteness.

    But here goes, I’ll just bring up the use of the coherence of the Bible as evidence of the existence of God. It was mentioned as one of many responses to the previous post that wondered about the rationality of reading the Bible and then deciding it is the text representative of the one true religion. If we use coherence of a religion’s fundamental text as a primary (or at least one of the most significant) measure of rationally accepting one religion’s complete truth and dismissing all others as false or at least perversions of truth, I find using the Bible as the pinnacle of truth extremely problematic for several reasons.

    Of course the most obvious first step would be to take issue with the coherence itself. This will no doubt be a source of debate although throughout all my studies in theology, I have found the explanation to legitimate questions of contradictory passages to be wholly unconvincing. Whether the argument is about the legitimate issue of interpretation, the even more legitimate issue of linguistics, or the questionable in this debate issue of historical context, the arguments (even when used in concert, which has its own unique logical problems altogether) have always failed to be more convincing than the criticisms. Often the explanations must contradict themselves as much as the passages they are defending. This is a debate that’s difficult to truly decide the question though because it relies on different individuals idea of what is more convincing as well as the individuals’ expertise and often comes down to who is more learned on the details and the multiple disciplines involved in the discussion, not to mention their talent at debate. So I offer it simply as supportive to the argument, not decisive.

    This is important because most often the debate is totally comprised of these arguments.

    So in addition I would like to point to the similarities in the Abrahamic texts as well as multiple historical texts and religiously historical texts. When fully examined I believe the coherence between these similarities is self-evidently much stronger than the coherence within these texts. It can, and often is argued, that this is a result of the nature of humanity, it’s relation to and understanding of God and humanity itself. What I believe it instead more reasonably displays is the product of individual and cultural intellectual “progress” that is the result of the communal cooperation between generations that share so many natural experiences and also are adjusted by new experiences and differing understandings of both types of experiences. This convinces me that the texts are more reasonably a product of human intelligence and not godly inspiration.

    It of course can be argued that this is a product of a developing relationship or understanding of God, but again I think it seems counterintuitive to think so. That’s another debate I wish I had time for and apologize that I do not. Another argument child be that God created our intellect and therfore set these events in motion and is responsible. But this is not an argument against the existence of God, simply against the logic of the truth of one single religion, and specifically because of the text’s coherence.

    It is certainly something much too complex to solve in a single comment thread, but I don’t think that’s what a comment thread is for, and for that matter not what the debate should attempt to achieve. For me the debate is in order to learn other intelligent positions and to test one against another in order to learn something new. But to think we will come to a conclusion about truth is in my mind naive and counterproductive.

    So that’s my contribution.

  11. Arthur Amon
    Arthur Amon says:

    An interesting discussion so far…

    I find the Bible to be pretty self-consistent (just stating my position up front).

    Tom Joad – your question about cancer and prayer (which is really two questions) is certainly key. I think anyone who believes that God loves us all and/or is trying to live as a Christian has to wrestle with it if we are being intelectually honest and attempting to obey Jesus’ command to love God with all of our minds. And it is certainly possible to arrive at a point that is fairly unconflicted on it, I believe (with a couple of caveats). Very briefly, the kind of evil that arises from us doing horrendous or just unpleasant things to each other (either as individuals or through social structures) depends in part of us having free will, and is a result of us abusing that. Some of what we call evil is a consequence of living in a cursed world, a consequence of our sin. In the case of cancer specifically, the general deterioration of the human genome, the proliferation of environmental poisons, in some cases lifestyle choices like smoking – aided and abetted by some human-organised, pretty unpleasant companies – amongst other things. But none of this reasoning will make much sense to you, I suspect, as it is certainly motivated by a desire to have a worldview consistent with the idea that God loves us. Because you lack that motivation, it might seem like nonsense, or at least an enormous leap for you from what I am assuming is your current atheist position. And so my answer to the other part of your very legitimate question about prayer and God’s omnipotence would probably be similarly incoherent. And I also have to deal with the problem of when God doesn’t answer prayer as well as him not healing everyone with cancer, which is a problem you are not faced with. But I have also seen some wonderful answers to prayer too, which I suppose you could write off as delusional… There are similar problems for the atheist though, which you have to justify in similar ways. The enormous leap from chemical elements to life (the most extremely basic of living systems is so complex and has such interdependence that it staggers me that an atheist would believe it arose spontaneously), especially in light of the second law of thermodynamics. Even with a handy external energy source, the only systems we have for trapping that energy are very complex proteins housed in specifically folded membrane structures, combined with many other enzymes needed to complete the harvesting; not to mention the genes coding for those proteins or the further complex apparatus needed to decode them into those energy-trapping proteins. There are other more distant but equally significant questions an atheist faces in the univers. The apparent absence of antimatter. Dark energy. Why did the Big Bang happen (why something not nothing)? Our moral sense (mentioned above as one of the proofs of God). I’m not saying there aren’t atheist answers to these questions (I haven’t found them convincing, but I know there are some), just that they are not self-evident or arrived at easily.

    Justicenaczycz – it sounds like you had some inconsistencies in mind, but you haven’t mentioned what they are. Would you mind saying what they are?

    Also it wasn’t entirely clear to me what you meant in the part near the end – did you mean that the similarities between the Bible and other historical religious texts were more coherent than the internal coherence of the Bible? I’m talking about the bit when you said “…I believe the coherence between these similarities is self-evidently much stronger than the coherence within these texts”. It would be also helpful to know at this point what the other texts are that you are talking about, and which incoherencies and coherencies you mean… Otherwise it’s a bit tricky responding to what you are saying.

  12. Nessie
    Nessie says:

    Hello. Just gonna put my little piece here. Many atheists and evolutionists seem to be very..absolute on their view that there is no God or intelligent designer. However that debunks their own theories. Atheists and evolutionists base their beliefs entirely on science…science more than a few times has admitted that it keeps progressing and changing according to new discoveries, often correcting and updating itself, right? Which,as a result, means that since science keeps changing its theories and has not yet been able to reach a full and a-b-s-o-l-u-te, cosmo-theory/knowledge about everything, then how can some people possibly go out and make such absolute declarations like this ”There is no designer or God”. To make such a statement means not only that you have managed to obtain absolute perfect knowledge of science (which nobody has so far), but that you also have managed to somehow in a ”magic” way, obtain absolute spiritual and physical knowledge about not only the earth and our galaxy but ALSO for all the other galaxies!

    Therefore, when some people make such bold statements, they come face to face with the embarassing fact that they cannot possibly know such a thing, therefore,claiming such things ridicules them and makes their way of thinking debunk the very basic notions and views of what scientific thinking is supposed to be like!

    ”In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins asserts his belief that there is no god and inveighs against religion and religious people. However, instead of attacking the irrationality of others, it seems Mr. Dawkins should examine his own beliefs. Every philosophical system involves certain unfounded beliefs. Premises are accepted on an irrational basis. From these irrationally posited axioms conclusions are inferred on a logical, rational basis. On a logical, factual basis, then, atheism is really no more defensible than are the various religions that Dawkins attacks. As far as such arguments go, there might or might not be a god or gods. There is no factual proof yea or nay. So neither Dawkins nor his opponents have any rational basis for deciding this issue”.

    So let’s just forget all the religious theories and all religious systems on earth ok? Let’s just suppose that there are two theories on the world, the one that comes out from science, and another that claims that there is an intelligent designer who is responsible for all the intelligent designs around us (earth,planets,galaxies,life,etc..). I repeat forget religions for a moment, just think we have these 2 theories.

    Since scientists know for a fact that science keeps progressing,correcting and updating itself, and hasn’t yet reached the absolute state of knowledge, how can someone completely reject the theory of an intelligent designer, when they aren’t even entirely and 100% sure, that there is indeed no such thing as an intelligent spirit designer? Based on evidence? What evidence? Science keeps learning, there is no stable evidence that has yet completely debunked the theory of an existing designer-God

    Evolution explains a lot of things about life and species and nature indeed, but it still fails to explain how the very beginning of life occured. Who/what controlled the manifestation? How can our intelligence,morality, sexuality, feelings of love,etc.. have possibly occured out of simple chemistry? Evolution explains the famous ”chemical soup”, event but that STILL does NOT explain where this chemical soup came from…how it occured. How did the big bang occur? Who or what controlled it? How does evolution debunk the theory that a designer-God was behind the big bang and the chemical soup? What makes evolutionists so certain that it wasn’t the designer who made those procedures to occur in the first place? And further controlled them?

    So as long as a person isn’t 100% capable of proving and explaining his/her theory, it’s completely irrational of them to mock,insult or accuse another person for the same. Therefore every atheist or scientist out there who makes mocking statements against the beliefs of a group of people in this world, proves on his/her own, the vulnerability of their ”scientific way of thinking”, which only leads to contradictions about THEIR beliefs. Which is why Richard Dawkins and many other absolute ”I know everything about this world even though I’m just a human”, scientists are not taken seriously by many people. I can never take people who mock other people for their beliefs, seriously, much less people who think they understand everything about the world when even science (their belief system), admits that it still learns!

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